Finding Time to Write … by Danica Favorite

2016_Danica FavoriteWhen people outside the writing world find out that I’m a writer, they’re always shocked because they have no idea how I find time to write. I work what amounts to a full-time job, and though I work from home and have a semi-flexible schedule, I still have to put those hours in. With two children at home who are involved in multiple activities, I spend most of my evenings and weekends driving them back and forth. Some days, I feel like I live in my car. I am on the go from the time I get out of bed until I fall back into bed, exhausted.

Right now, I’m in the middle of a crazy deadline crunch. I just turned in my line edits for a book I have coming out in September, my January book is due May 1st, and I have a book releasing April 1st. Which means I don’t have the luxury of writing when I feel like it or hoping my life is going to slow down so I can catch up.

So, how, then, do I get the writing done?

The key is in finding ways to make the schedule work for you. When my kids are at their activities, I have my laptop with me. An hour of dance practice becomes an hour of writing time. The kids have to be at the riding arena all day? Have laptop, will travel. And, for those unexpected wait times, I have my book files saved on Dropbox, which I can access from my phone or tablet. Writing on my phone is not fun, but I can do it. I was just at my daughter’s robotics competition, and all of my electronics had dead batteries, so I pulled out a notebook and wrote by hand. It wasn’t pretty, but it did the job.

2016_Favorite_ShotgunOne of the most important things I do, though, is communicate with my family. They know when I’m coming up on a deadline, and what kind of time I need. Part of that is knowing how much time it takes me to write a book, then looking at our schedule to see where I can find that time. And when those times don’t add up, it means figuring out what I need to do to make it work. Sometimes, when I’m in a crunch, I’ll spend the weekend at a hotel, locked in a room, writing.

The other crucial piece to balancing my busy life with my writing time is making time for self care. If I don’t have enough fuel in the tank, I’m not going anywhere, especially when it comes to the energy I put into both my family and my writing. I have a standing massage appointment every other week.. I have a regular journaling habit, and I also do a lot of art journaling. That all seems to add up, time-wise, but what I’ve found is that when I am doing all the things that support me emotionally and creatively, I’m a better wife, better mother, better writer, and I don’t feel as pressed for time, even though I still have exactly the same hours in the day.

How do you get that balance?

Take a look your writing habits and needs. Track how long it takes you to write. If you can write an average of 1K in 1 hour, how many hours do you need to write your book? Then look at your schedule. Where in your schedule can you fit those hours? Does that mean cutting something out? I’m amazed at all the ways we all waste time when we take the time to analyze how we’re spending it. Also be aware of hidden times you can use to write. I can usually get about 6 hours of writing time just sitting and waiting for my kids at their various practices. When you’re making your schedule, be intentional about also scheduling down time and self-care time. It’s tempting to pack every minute full of stuff, especially when you’re feeling pressed for time, but in those circumstances, the best thing you can do is to give yourself a break.

How do you balance your writing life with everything else you need to get done?

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A self-professed crazy chicken lady, Danica Favorite loves the adventure of living a creative life. She and her family recently moved in to their dream home in the mountains above Denver, Colorado. Danica loves to explore the depths of human nature and follow people on the journey to happily ever after. Though the journey is often bumpy, those bumps are what refine imperfect characters as they live the life God created them for. Oops, that just spoiled the ending of all of Danica’s stories. Then again, getting there is all the fun.

Learn more about Danica and her writing at her website. She can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

We sing because we have a song

This week I wrote, “The End.” It’s a rare treat--for me, that is. Some prolific writers (Marie Force comes to mind, and Nora Roberts) can write a full-length novel in 60 days or less. My speed is more like one book a year.

Please indulge me as I savor it. The book: Crimson Secret. Book Four in the Coin Forest series, set during England’s War of the Roses. I even developed a positioning TM tag line for the series: History  made passionate in medieval England.

I love these characters. I lived through their adventures, and they were exotic and breath-taking. I agonized over their life-and-death decisions, and enjoyed their triumphs. I love this story.

Now comes the revision process, during which we reach inside, grab our toes and pull, turning ourselves inside out as each paragraph, page and chapter is reviewed, revised, enhanced, deleted and polished to make it the best story it can be.

After that, my heroic beta readers will read it from cover to cover, and the gem will be polished again.

bird-287109_1920 singing 2.5 in
Because I so love the music, I must join the chorus. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Then, because I’m an independently published author I will work with my book cover designer (my talented daughter, Jalena) to design an eye-catching cover that will provide clear proof of the genre and convince readers to buy it.

To add to that marketing effort, I will solicit reader book reviews, format my novel for Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Kobo and write an intriguing book description. I will send ARCs to procure testimonials. I will blog and tweet and Facebook my way through those pre- and post-release weeks. I will go on blog tours, make community appearances and may produce a video trailer and appear on radio and podcast interviews. I will enter contests, because winning them provides more prestige for the novel.

I used to be a traditionally published author, and I did much of the same work for those novels.

Few people know the work involved for both traditionally published and indie published authors. But we do it, for one book, two books, ten. Thirty. Each novel is a cherished story, one that we hope will bring readers the same joy as it did us.

Why? Why do we do it?

A dear friend of mine, Joya Wonderlight, is a gifted piano teacher with high enthusiasm for children, music, and life.  A plaque on her wall reads, “Use the talents you possess – for the woods would be silent if only the best birds sang.” …many variations exist of this quote, credited to Henry Van Dyke.

An unattributed Chinese proverb says, “A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.”

These concepts are why I write. Writing enriches our lives. Good writing entertains, but it also stimulates the imagination. It validates our human existence, with all its trials and emotions and joys. It enlightens and invites thoughtful reflection. It can improve a reader's afternoon--or change his or her life.

It changes writers' lives, too. To bring a story from beginning to end is a tremendous workout for the mind. We become more aware of universal needs, and the bond we share with all of humanity. And we become better writers, because with each book we write, we become better and better at our craft, and the quality of our message.

Which birds sing the best? That’s a subjective question. Each person’s voice is unique and who among us would want to silence the forest?  Because I so love the music, I must join the chorus.

I love reading my work to my critique partners. We share a unique friendship, and I have come to love them as a special family in my life. We share a passion. I love it when they are pleased with my pages. I love it when I am pleased with their pages. We see and celebrate our progress. These friendships are gifts.

I also love my readers, and reading their reviews of my novels. When a reader writes that they loved my story so much they're going to read it again--when they intuit the theme of my books, love my characters, are eager to read my next release--that I've made the 15th century come alive for them.--it's a heady brew of emotions. Relief. Pleasure. Excitement. Connection. Before I was published, I used to fear reviews. I have discovered that they are another gift.

The other reason I write is because, in addition to the challenge of creating and delivering a story intact from my heart to the page, writing is a form of self-discovery.  I have learned much about my hopes and dreams by creating and following my characters’ desires. And just in case I get so  confident that I think I've conquered the hero's journey with its many satisfying goalposts, life often surprises me.

Which is good. This keeps life interesting, and our pens moving across the page. We sing because we have a song.

Why do you write?

Volunteering, it’s a little like writing

I’m RMFW president. Huh. Didn’t see that coming. I live on the western slope. People said no one outside of the Denver area would ever be president. That was ok with me.

When I wrote my first words and sat back to re-read them, I admired those words. I was writing the next best seller. I had this shit. I was good. I went on-line to find other writers so they could also admire my words.

In that search, I found Colorado Romance Writers and shortly thereafter attended my first writers’ gathering. A weekend retreat. In hindsight, getting lost on the way there was likely the universe’s foreshadowing. I left the retreat in tears. I sucked. Not just my writing, but me. I embarrassed myself. I was awkward. Couldn’t read my own writing. Couldn’t answer questions about my storyline. What the hell was POV?

I didn’t give up. If I had, I wouldn’t have found RMFW. Wouldn’t have met all of you. Wouldn’t know my best friend. May not have grown up as nicely as I have. I digress.

It didn’t take me long to realize writing is hard work. It takes time. Ups and downs abound. There are times I read my work and groan. I suck. Still.

Other times I read and once again admire it. In those times, I often don’t remember writing the words. Sometimes, I think I channel an old writer who is pissed she’s dead and wants her words in this world. I wish she would show up more often.

Back to volunteering. I will never forget my first job with RMFW. Well, actually I’m lying. I’ve forgotten a lot of it. I hope that means I was channeling again. Maybe a long dead conference Goddess.

At the first conference I attended, shortly after entering the hotel, I was made the next year's co-conference chair. I was not yet an RMFW member. It took a bit for me to understand what I had been volunteered for, as I hadn’t been privy to that conversation. After many questions and answers that weren’t quite sinking in, my best friend, Marne, held up her arms and waved to encompass the entire hotel and all of the people in sight and said “We are doing all of this. One year from now.”

Once I fully comprehended, I strutted around a bit. The next year, I would be the boss. In control. Back then control was important to me. Thankfully not so much any more.

Then the hard work started. I didn’t even know RMFW, much less how to put on a conference. I am positive there was a lot eye-rolling on the other side of calls and emails. That was a long, exhausting, scary year. And a rewarding one. I met people who have been friends since. Who I will grow old with. Maybe a few of us will get together and do a little channeling ourselves once we’re gone from this world.

Together, Marne and I pulled the conference off. Not sure how well we did it, but we did it. Except for a few months after that first year, I’ve been on the board since. Held a few positions. Helped a bit with conference each year.

I’ve learned more and gained more from my time with RMFW than I can explain in one blog post. I’m grateful. Also more than I can explain.

When I realized I would be the next RMFW president, I thought to myself, I got this. I can do this. I now alternate between, Geez, Vicki, do not screw this up and I got this and wow, how do I fix this situation? Oh, and of course there is I suck. By the way, this is only the second month of my two year term. It’s been an interesting ride already.

But, I don’t expect as much eye-rolling. I know RMFW. I can speak in public. I’ve spent years helping to solve problems, working with the board and putting on events. My abilities and knowledge have grown. I’m a steadier person.

I also still have much to learn.

I’m in the same place with my current WIP. It’s been a long time coming. I’d like to blame it on working and volunteering, but in reality, it’s just been a long time coming. However, I have found my voice. I’m close to typing The End. I’m excited about what I’ve written. I like what I read.

I know what POV means.

I also still have much to learn.

Plotting

No, not what you’re thinking… this isn’t a lesson on how to plot.

This is a musing on how plotting happens.

Which means?

I was shoveling a foot of snow out of my driveway last Tuesday afternoon and I found myself plotting. I’ve been in a restaurant trying to keep my mind on the conversation at my table, and found myself plotting. I’ve been watching a movie, and found myself plotting.

It’s insidious. It creeps into my consciousness no matter what I’m doing. It’s either the story I’m currently working on or it’s the one I’m planning to work on next. It’s a new character that’s begging to be introduced or an old character that does something unexpected. It’s the answer to the corner I’ve painted myself into. It’s the ending I didn’t see coming.

Plotting is a fluid process. Even when I’ve carefully laid the story out scene by scene, I’m often surprised by an idea that seems to pop into my head. It’s what makes writing so much fun.

But not always for those who have to live with you. Sometimes my husband will be chattering away and suddenly he’ll stop and look at me. “You haven’t heard a thing I’ve said, have you?” he’ll ask.

He doesn’t even wait for an answer. “You’re plotting, aren’t you?”

Can’t deny it. I’m a writer. It’s what I do.

Except during the Super Bowl this year… Best.Superbowl.Ever.

So, how about you? Where do you do your best plotting?

Sex With Strangers

Michael Kingsbaker as Ethan; Paige Price as Olivia in 'Sex With Strangers'
Michael Kingsbaker as Ethan; Paige Price as Olivia in 'Sex With Strangers'

Can you judge an author by his or her books?

Should you go Kindle Direct Publishing or hold out hope for Farrar Straus Giroux to come your way?

I’m urging you to book a night to head down to Curious Theatre Company, 1080 Acoma St., and check out “Sex With Strangers” through Feb. 20. You can get in for about $18 and sit upstairs in this amazing theatre space. (Hey, upstairs is closer to the wine bar anyway.)

Don’t let the title mislead you. This is a PG-13 presentation—a bit of skin and some groping on stage. But it’s all in the name of a play about publishing, writing, identity, fame, fortune, selling out, managing reputations and that special tug of war between high art and crass commercialization.

It’s a simple set-up but playwright Laura Eason (“House of Cards” to her credit and much more) wrings every possible nuance from the odd coupling in a remote Michigan bed and breakfast.

In some ways the play is PAL vs iPAL, to put it in RMFW terms. And it’s also about what the two can do for each other.

In one corner, we have blogger-writer-screenplay guy Ethan who has (quite literally) spilled himself all over the Internet. He wrote a blog called “Sex With Strangers” that was started on a bet. It is titillating and tawdry and it has left more tawdriness in its wake. The blog became a book, then two, and a movie is now in the works. Cash is raining down on a guy who admits he’s a bit of jerk in public. It’s a role, you know. It’s not really him.

In the other corner, we have a reclusive, thoughtful, obscure, under-the-radar writer Olivia, author of meaningful fiction who is happy writing in solitude and, she believes, perfectly fine with her status. Her first book fizzled, in part because of a so-wrong “chick lit” cover. “The people who would have liked it didn’t buy it because of what they thought it was,” she laments. “And the people who did buy it hated it, because it wasn’t what they expected.”

Ethan is all Kindle and e-books—a fast-writing man on the move.

Olivia is all leather-bound classics and the smell of an old book. She’s caution and contemplation.

First, mud flies between these two—and then sparks.

Laugh lines are piled high, but so are some razor sharp observations about different attitudes toward publishing, marketing and ownership of art, particularly when he steals her latest manuscript to give it a read. She’s incensed at this brazen break in trust but gets over it when he begins developing ideas for how to re-launch her career by rebranding her first novel, which sank without a trace.

There are a couple of implausible moments in the plot, especially the lightning-quick response from New York agents and publishers, but it’s all in the name of a good story. There was no funnier moment to me than Olivia’s reaction when Ethan recites a line from her long-ago, “forgotten” novel. What’s more seductive than that kind of intense adoration?

We writers know. Absolutely nothing.

The set is terrific, the acting is stellar. Don’t miss “Sex With Strangers.” Well, you know what I mean.

Amazing set at The Curious Theatre Co. For 'Sex With Strangers'
Amazing set at The Curious Theatre Co. For 'Sex With Strangers'

And how was your day….?

helplessI had a different blog in mind. Really. But something happened tonight that reinforces what my life as a writer is like. I thought it might resonate with some of you.

I was at the annual RMFW and board meeting this last Saturday (I don’t think I saw you there?). The 250 mile trip home was near blizzard, and my car ended up covered with road salts. I decided to stop at the carwash on my way home from work tonight. You know the kind— you pay, drive inside, and let it do its thing for five minutes.

Only today, the carwash had something else in mind. I ended up locked inside the car wash. Yes, that was me, sitting there with my bumper six inches from the rollup door, the dryer shaking my car like a tornado, but only drying the front three feet. Thinking it's just a matter of time before the door opens. Then sitting and waiting after the blower stopped. And waiting some more.

The whole fifteen minutes reminds me of my writing life. Where I write a great (hopefully) manuscript, clean and polish it, and when it’s nice and shiny, submit it to an agent or editor. And wait. And wait some more. Worry and second guess myself. And worry some more. Acting like it’s the only thing I can do.

But all I had to do was get out of my car, open the side door, find someone who knew what to do, and let them help me. Just as I am not some helpless old lady, I am not a helpless writer. All I need to do is gather my fellow writers around me for advice and comfort. And start writing something new while I wait. Have my critique crew give me input. Anything but just sitting and waiting for the agent to love me. For someone to rescue me.

I don’t need rescued. I can write my characters out of any situation, and I can handle these painful “wait” periods with a little help from my friends. The moral of this (long) story is…you don’t have to do this alone. You’re part of a tribe, or a seahorse herd (Susan Spann, you will forever be quoted after that epic Gold speech!). We’re all in this together. We understand each other. We’ve been there, done that, and survived. So don’t hibernate, fretting over ”will they like it or will it be a rejection”? No matter which way it goes, you’ll learn from it, and all your RMFW writer friends (even the ones you don't yet know) will cheer your successes or commiserate with your “Thanks But…” letters. Because we’ll be the ones who need it next time.

Don’t wait to be rescued. Open the door and ask for help from your fellow authors. And Write On.

Know-It-All: The Art or Plague of Research

POLL:  How many of you know what the 47th tallest structure is? (No googling, you cheaters).

I do.

Does that make me brilliant or lame?

I have no idea.

But I do know it makes me a writer. You see, I, like you, look for the smallest, seemingly inconsequential detail to breathe reality into my stories.

Or, I'm deluding myself, and my last month of ‘research’ into the tallest structures around the world and the effects on the body of falling off said structure have all been a waste of my precious, limited time on this planet?

Honestly I suspect the latter.

I’m all for research, as long as it’s for the book’s sake and not a means to procrastinate actual writing.

 

Example:

In my latest book, I found myself in the saggy middle, no idea how to write my heroine out of the corner I inevitably wrote her in since I never outline though I think outlining is a brilliant idea. So here I sit, my fingers on the keys, unmoving.

Crap.

Hmmm…Is my writer’s block a sign of early dementia? I mean, I haven’t written a word in over an hour. That has to be something, right? I jump on Google, searching for the signs.

I’m not a hypochondriac.

I’m doing research!

Maybe, since I’m here, I should research the shoes my heroine is wearing? I could name them in the book, show my readers I know my shoes.

Except I don’t.

So I’m not writing. So what? I’m researching!

Of course, what I really am doing is wasting my time on stuff that isn’t vital to my book. Unless shoes play a role, why bother with that level of detail? It is a way for me, at least, to procrastinate instead of doing what I should do and outline the rest of the damn book or at least the scene I’m struggling with.

Research gives life, makes worlds come alive (See this article from Writer’s Digest on how to use research).

But it is and always will be about the story.

No amount of research makes up for what’s on the page.

Or getting those words on the page.

 

BTW, read my next book for the answer to the 47th tallest structure. Hint, it’s close by. And if you’re interested, I’m still ‘researching’ the effects of falling off said structure.

Anyone up for a field trip?

 

What are you currently researching? Do you find yourself ‘researching’ instead of writing when stuck like me?

 

The Absolute, Total, No Doubt about It, Guide to Writing … by Richard Keller

Rich-KellerTake a look at the Internet – without stopping for cute puppy videos – and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of blog posts and news items labeling themselves as the be-all, end-all guides to writing. Compare them to each other and I bet you’ll find large similarities between them all. There’s a finite amount of material these people provide, and most of it comes from sites other people have put together from other people on the web have put together that –. Well, you see what I mean.

Now come back here, because I have tremendous news. I am now going to provide the absolute, total, no-doubt-about-it guide to writing. Regardless if you’re a seasoned author or someone sharpening the last pencil in their vast collection, the following is the definitive guide to become a galactically-successful author. You no longer need to go to any other site for writing advice.

1. Don’t write what you know. Let me clarify. You can write what you know if you’re a space alien ready to invade Earth, a superhero, or a super spy with a whole bunch of cool gadgets. You can also write what you know if you’re a musician/actor/artist who had a horrible childhood, gained humongous success, burned out on drugs, got clean, burned out again, got clean again, found God, and was probed by aliens. Should you be someone who’s greatest achievement is getting free premium channels when you didn’t pay for them, think about writing about space aliens, or a superhero, or –.

2. Be a snoop. Do you know how Weird Al Yankovic came up with the hit parody “Like a Surgeon?” He heard Madonna had asked her friend when Weird Al would parody “Like a Virgin” with “Like a Surgeon.” You know how J.K. Rowling came up with the idea for the Harry Potter series? She watched wizards and witches run through a column on Platform 9 of Kings Cross Station. Authors need to have their eyes and ears open at all times in order to absorb a potential story idea. Just don’t put together a book of stories inspired by overheard conversations at the coffee shop. I have that gig in the bag.

3. Admit Writer’s Block is just an excuse to watch Real Housewives. Please, you’re a creative talent! Story ideas and words should be flowing through your mind from the time you wake up to the time you to bed. And, as long as strange inner voices aren’t interrupting those ideas and words, there’s no limit to what you can put down on paper. Can’t think of the next chapter for your manuscript, switch to a short story, a poem, or a letter to Bravo asking them to start a Real Housewives of Hoboken series.

4. Copy current trends. Let’s see … that means you should imitate the following themes: dystopian futures; apocalyptic futures; dystopian, apocalyptic futures; teen angst; dystopian teen angst; apocalyptic teen angst; dystopian, apocalyptic teen angst; futuristic, dystopian, apocalyptic teen angst; and cookbooks.

Finally,

5. Well, maybe you should go to other sites.

A version of this post was first published on Patricia Stoltey's blog in November 2014.

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New Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers member Richard Keller is the founder of Wooden Pants Publishing and the Associate Director of Northern Colorado Writers. Richard has written over two thousand articles over the last three decades for various media outlets, including USA Today, RM Parent, Fort Collins Magazine, BellaSpark, The Coloradoan, and AOL TV. Richard resides in Northern Colorado with his wife and five children. In his spare time, Richard likes to read, travel, perform Improv, and sleep in a sensory deprivation chamber to get at least one minute of peace.

To learn more about Richard and his publishing company, visit the Wooden Pants Publishing website. He can also be found on Facebook.

Multi-Tasking or Single-Tasking: What Works Best for You?

I always have a lot going on at any one time, in my writing life and in real life. Yes, I do see a distinct separation between the two lives, even though one tends to muddy up the other from time to time.

When I'm writing, I'm a writer. I put on my writerly cloak and think writerly thoughts. That's my plan for today. Except for the laundry, of course, but it’s Monday. I always do the laundry on Monday.

When I'm doing real life stuff, I forget all about the writing part and get crazy. Yesterday, for instance, I read the paper and then a few chapters of The Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille, rode the exercise bike twice, talked to my mom on the phone, and watched the Broncos beat the Chargers on television. And I paid a lot of attention to Katie Cat because she's very demanding.

Katie Cat waiting for me to move the laptop so she can claim my lap

When I'm being a writer, I'm also being a blogger and social media junkie. My husband often comments on the number of tabs I usually have open when I'm at my computer. There's email, this blog, my personal blog, a Google calendar, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and sometimes Goodreads and amazon.com.

And I subscribe to a number of blogs that I follow regularly.

So....when I read Leo Babauta's post several weeks ago on Zen Habits, I felt he might be talking directly to me. The post is called "I'm Returning to Single-Tasking." In the first of six excellent points, Leo says he's going to have only one tab open at a time. Multi-tasking is out the window. Single-tasking is in.

For me, this is an amazing new concept. How about you?

In the past, when I’ve gone into busy writer mode, the one thing that always got sacrificed was reading time. Or I try to read at the same time I’m watching television shows that don’t require a lot of concentration. If I move to that single-tasking philosophy, which I’ve been trying and kind of like, I’ll keep at least 30 minutes free in the morning for pleasure reading. It almost gives me a chill of pleasure to think about it. What a wonderful way to start the day.

Anyway, back to my plan for today. A little bit of time outside to enjoy the balmy 40+ degree day, do that laundry, quickly finish my morning computer tasks online, and then spend many hours on manuscript revisions. Taking Leo Babauta's advice to heart, I will close all my browser tabs and focus on the book during that revision time I’ve set aside.

Tell me something about your writing habits. Do you muddle about with more than one project at a time? Or do you focus on just one and get it finished before you move on to another? What are your browser tab habits? Do you have any new plans for tackling your projects in 2016 so you're more productive?

Let us write, let us write, let us write!

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the tale inside’s delightful!
And since we’re so erudite
Let us write, let us write, let us write!

blue-snowflake‘Tis the season for holidays and gifts and snowfalls. We just emerged from a powerful storm, and are facing more as we approach the new year. The ski areas are euphoric, but for those who don’t ski, the colder temperatures and ice aren’t welcome.

For the first time in my life, I’m traveling during the holidays. My husband, John, whisked me away to Puerto Vallarta. He needed a vacation, he said, and I’m reaping the benefits, writing this under palm trees and in a bone-friendly seventy-five degrees.

In this idyllic tropical paradise, I’m also writing chapter nineteen of my work in progress, The Red Bridge, book four in my fifteenth century Gypsy historical romance series. In this chapter, it’s mid-May, with weather that varies from soft, spring-like afternoons to chilly mornings and evenings.

How does one write about goose bumps and the chill of pre-dawn while basking in summer temperatures? Don’t ask a writer that question. It’s all in the amazing gift of imagination we possess in such great quantities.

In this tropical heat, I recall a faithful dog and the “fine power of frost,” of ice and air so cold that spittle crackles and freezes before it hits the ground. Yes, I’m thinking of one of the most memorable short stories I have ever read, To Build a Fire, by Jack London (1876-1916). It was a sixth grade required reading assignment that I found mesmerizing. I recall learning much later that London wrote that story from a beach chair on one of the Hawaiian islands, and experienced disbelief that anyone could write such convincing prose about the perils of death by freezing – while lounging, carefree, under a tropical sun. Such was London’s skill, and such is the magic of fiction. We can change our environment any time, just by stepping into the pages of fiction. No matter how oppressive the cold, our minds are free to roam warmer or cooler worlds. We need only use our imaginations and, thankfully, no matter the financial climate, it’s free.

For inspiration, you can read an adaptation of London’s amazing short story with just a click of the mouse, at http://learningenglish.voanews.com/content/short-stories-to-build-a-fire-by-jack-london-139130564/114744.html

Do you recall a time when fiction took you to a radically different world or environment? A time when fiction healed or rescued you from harsh reality?